Each group should have basic goals, and the church should have goals for small groups in
general. While a group can engage in a number of different activities – worship, prayer,
Bible Study, fellowship, church service, community service, community care, etc. – people
need to have a clear idea what the group is about to set expectations. You should be able to
tell what a group is about in one sentence or less. Some common group types include:

  • Service Group: Serves the church with specific duties such as ushering, children’s
    ministry, communion, audio/visual, etc.
  • Bible Study: Reviews the Bible and answers questions, often in a more informal
    setting.
  • Sermon Discussion Group: Watches pastor sermons and discusses Scripture,
    questions, and application in depth.
  • Sunday School Class: Similar to a Bible study but in a lecture format with less
    discussion; often held at church before or after a Sunday service.
  • Prayer: Focuses on praying for people within and/or outside the group consistently
    and regularly.
  • Fellowship / Social: Concerned with spending time together and building
    community, often with a more ad hoc schedule. Great for connecting new people to a
    faith community who wouldn’t otherwise come to a church service or Bible Study.
  • Directory: A list of people, such as the church directory.
  • Mentoring: Usually with one mentor and one mentee, a mentoring group focuses on
    building up the mentee with an intimacy not possible in larger settings.
  • Discipleship / Spiritual Formation: A stable, intimate group meeting for a longer
    period of time with a commitment to each other, accountability, and becoming like
    Jesus despite the trials of living in the world.

Group founders should carefully consider the duration and size of the group and their
implications. While there are a lot of great things that can happen in a six week Bible study
of fifteen people, it is not realistic to expect that this group will have extensive depth in
sharing as this requires safety and time for trust to develop so that people can share
vulnerabilities.

For mentoring, the number of mentees can rarely exceed 1. Ogden recommends no more
than five people in a group focused on discipleship/spiritual formation. Putnam
recommends no more than twelve people to have a relational environment conducive to
sharing and growth (Putnam 67).

Discipleship and spiritual formation groups often need to be closed to new members and
have durations exceeding 12 months and ideally 24 months.

SmartGroups supports a wide variety of group types. The six pre-configured types can be
customized to include everything you need without extraneous items. For example, picture sharing
and chat are not part of the default settings for a directory group, but can be enabled. In contrast,
picture sharing is part of the default Bible Study group, but can be disabled for groups that don’t want
to promote this type of sharing.